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September 20, 2013

Resort project opens tiny Bimini to the world

(Continued)

The Bahamian government has welcomed the project, but critics say the benefits come at too great a cost.

The Bahamas National Trust, a non-governmental environmental organization created by Parliament, as well as researchers at the Bimini Biological Field Station, where scientists come from around the world to research a thriving shark population, say runoff from a proposed golf course would destroy a protected area of mangrove that acts as a nursery to the fish, conch and lobster that make the place a destination.

A secondary issue is the 1,000-foot jetty that Genting will build to shorten the time it takes to get off and on its ship, which began service in July. Opponents say the project will damage coral reefs; a company official says it complies with environmental regulations and that the site was chosen specifically to minimize any threat.

Genting, which has been seeking to build a casino in downtown Miami amid opposition, insists the golf course is still under consideration and would only be built if it can be done in an environmentally sensitive way.

“We are not here to ruin what Bimini is, we are not here to ruin the water, we’re not here to ruin the pristine mangroves, the quaintness of the island,” Dana Leibovitz, president of Resorts World Bimini, said on a recent afternoon at the edge of the casino, which was open but largely empty. “We want to integrate. We want to be part of the island and we want to continue for that to be the main draw to the island.”

Bimini only has a full-time population of about 1,600— about the size of a full-capacity cruise ship — and has avoided mass tourism because of scarce air service and the passing Gulf Stream, which makes the crossing from South Florida too rough for small vessels much of the year.

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